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The Fowl and the Pussycat

Love Letters of Michael Field, 1876–1909
Michael Field. Edited by Sharon Bickle

BUY Cloth · 336 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813927510 · $55.00 · Dec 2008

Michael Field was the pseudonym used by Katherine Bradley (1846-1914) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913) coauthors and lovers for the poetry and verse drama they published. This edition of the love letters of Michael Field brings together for the first time a personal correspondence thought lost by critics. As the first modern scholarly edition of any of Michael Field's writings, the 168 letters represent a treasure trove of almost untouched manuscript material, including many from the critical early years (1876-1885) of this aunt-niece collaboration. The letters contain both published and unpublished poems and insights into the dramas and their production and are supplemented by extensive annotation and a biographical introduction. Recent critical analysis of poetry and plays written by Michael Field has resulted in more complex interpretations of lesbian textuality, but our understanding of the lives of these poets remains obscured by a pervasive myth of unity. By drawing on previously neglected information about the early lives of Bradley and Cooper made available in these letters, Bickle is able to challenge many current perceptions about the poets' lives. She also shows how the letters provide a context for understanding the development of specific works and for reevaluating the significance of Michael Field as a late-Victorian writer.


I had thought that the generous spirit of the great mid-twentieth-century editors of letters had died with them—that it was no longer to be found in the new generation of academics. My faith has been restored by Sharon Bickle's The Fowl and the Pussycat. Yes, it is clearly a labor of love, which testifies to Bickle's romance, if you will, with Bradley and Cooper. But it is also a reflection of the author's love of Victorian literature, art, culture, politics, and daily life as a whole and of her dedication to embracing and understanding everything about the past. Indeed, she shares with the Victorians themselves a love of knowledge for knowledge's sake—the kind of compendious knowledge that grows out of boundless curiosity about all phenomena.

Margaret D. StetzUniversity of Delaware, author of Facing the Late Victorians and coeditor of Michael Field and Their World

"Sharon Bickle's outstanding collection of letters represents the first modern, scholarly edition of work by Michael Field, the fascinating lesbian aunt and niece who wrote poems and plays together under a single, male name for nearly the whole of their eventful lives. Not since the publication in 1933 of selected entries from Field's journals has such an important set of documents emerged. Moreover, though Field aficionados have been reading the letters and journals held by the British Library for decades now, few are even aware of these thought-filled, personal letters held by the Bodleian, or the revealing poems, and plans for plays, these letters enclose.

Holly LairdUniversity of Tulsa, author of Women Coauthors

About the Author(s): 

Sharon Bickle is a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Women's Studies and Gender Research at Monash University, Victoria, Australia.

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